The Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association have agreed to racing dates for the balance of 2006 and the entire 2007 racing campaign. The dates were approved this afternoon at the monthly Maryland Racing Commission meeting.In addition to the winter, spring and fall stands, the 2006 schedule will now include an eight-day mini-meet at Laurel Park from August 16-25 with twilight racing (3:30 p.m. post time) on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday cards bringing the total of live racing days for the year to 184."Racing in August was very important to the horsemen for the overall program," said Wayne Wright, Executive Secretary for the MTHA. "Even though it might only seem to be eight days, getting live racing back at Laurel in August rather than September makes a three-month break a two-month break which is huge to our people.""We felt this is a good opportunity to experiment somewhat and try something new (twilight racing)," said Lou Raffetto, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. "We are hopeful that a new demographic will come out at the end of a work day and enjoy happy hour at the track with live racing in concert with simulcast races from such tracks as Saratoga and Del Mar."The 2007 racing schedule, which will also consist of 184 live days at Laurel Park and Pimlico, is:--Winter Meeting---Laurel Park (January 1-April 15), 74 days
--Spring Meeting---Pimlico (April 19-June 9), 31 days
--Summer Meeting -- Laurel Park (August 11-24), 10 days
--Fall Meeting---Laurel Park (September 5-December 29), 69 days"We worked hard over the last six months on a number of issues," added Raffetto. "We are happy to say this is another one that has been resolved. It is nice to know this far in advance what our plans are. This is another sign of the harmony that exists amongst the industry and shows a true willingness to work together to accomplish what needs to be accomplished to survive and be competitive at this time and work to the ultimate goal, which is a level playing field with the surrounding states in the form of slots.""It took some time but there was mutual cooperation between the two parties," added Wright. "Lou Raffetto went above and beyond to find the middle ground and we thank him for that on a local level. Horsemen rely on live racing and reaching the schedule is a positive and well received by our committee, chaired by Dale Capuano. We resolved the issue over expense contribution and collectively look to improve the business. "
The commission also approved the stakes schedule for the 2006 fall meeting, which begins at Laurel on Wednesday, Sept. 4. The 73-day stand is headlined by the 21st annual Maryland Million (Oct. 14), a 12-race stakes program for Maryland sired horses, and the Fall Festival of Racing (Nov. 25), featuring the Grade I Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash and seven other added money races. The stand will feature 43 stakes races for $4.725 million.